Tuesday, September 22, 2020

From Greatness to Goodness

By now, you're probably wondering what it looks like when the minor prophets show us the goodness of God. Well, look no further than the opening chapters of Amos. Really.

As Amos opens, God is condemning the nations. All of them. (Or, it seems like all of them.) He is frustrated with all the people in all the world, His people and the people He's put around His people. They have all committed "three sins" and "now four," and it's all He can take. He's ready to show them who's God and who's not. He's ready for them to pay the price for their waywardness and sin. 

A brief interjection - this is the 'greatness' of God. This is His power and might. This is His justice and judgment. This is that big-picture-God stuff we've been talking about, where He is Lord over all the earth and can act however he pleases with it. As a 'great' God (think: big, powerful, all-encompassing), He has every right to rain down His judgment on these peoples who are messing up the plan He had for things. So this is exactly what we're talking about when we talk about the greatness of God. 

But this is a minor prophet, and there's an emphasis on the goodness of God here, too. All you have to do is pay attention to how this story unfolds. 

When God pronounces His judgment on these sinful peoples who have committed not just three, but four sins, every pronunciation starts with the same promise - He is going to set fire to the walls of their cities and burn down their palaces. Over and over again, this is what He says. Set fire to the walls and burn down the palaces. Every time. 

Maybe you're thinking - that doesn't sound 'good.' Wait for it, though...

Every judgment begins this way, but every one ends differently. It's so cool. One people will go into captivity. One people will die. One people's king will go into captivity along with his officials. One nation's officials will die, and the army will die in war. 

Here's why this matters: because when we hear that God is going to set fire to the walls and burn down the palaces, it's easy to think that this is all just the same action that God is doing. That this is just something about God that is true. That this is who He is. He is a God who rains down fire and burns down walls and palaces to destroy His peoples. And when we think that, it's easy for us to think that God is just waiting to do that to us, that He just can't wait to send His fire down on us, too. After all, that's what He does, right?

But what Amos reminds us even in these judgment prophecies is that God doesn't deal with us only on the basis of who He is, but He encounters each and every one of us on the basis of who we are, too. Not one of these peoples committed exactly the same sin, nor were any of these peoples the same peoples. They all had their own histories and their own relationships with God and their own waywardness. God - if He is really good - cannot simply deal with them all in a one-size-fits-all manner. He has to meet them individually...even in His fire. 

Even when He looks like the same God in His greatness, in His goodness, He is the very intimate God who is in a specific relationship with each one of us. He is the God who knows that this nation deserves to die, but this nation deserves captivity, while this one over here needs only to have her leaders taken away. 

The same is true in your life and mine. We each have a very specific relationship with God, and He acts out of that unique relationship that He has with us. He knows what we need and while in His greatness, He remains an all-powerful, all-right, all-righteous God, He is faithfully good with us, too, and knows how to give us just what we need...or deserve. Not just because of who He is, but because of who we are, too, and how He loves us.

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